As a child, wisdom was the one thing that I asked of God almost daily. Wisdom is a central subject in the book of Proverbs; a subject that one of the wisest man in the history, King Solomon (1 Kin. 4:29-30; 1 Kin. 10:23-24), thought was vitally important to teach. Yet today, we rarely hear teaching on wisdom. Perhaps it’s because it seems so straightforward in the Bible. At first glance, it may seem as if there is little to expound on, but I feel today the Church needs to remind itself what godly wisdom is.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Pro 4:7 ESV
You might say that the very first sign of wisdom is knowing that you need it, and posturing your heart to get it. Wisdom can be gained in two ways: it can be imparted spiritually (1 Kin. 4:29-30; 2 Chr. 1:11-12), and it can be learned (Psa. 51:6, 90:12; Pro. 4:5, 7). Our goal, either way, should be to get wisdom from above — wisdom from God. There are, in fact, two kinds of wisdom: wisdom from above, or godly wisdom, and earthly, unspiritual, demonic wisdom (Jam. 3:13-18).
A Revelation of Christ
Wisdom from above always starts with knowing God Himself — with a revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul unlocked revelation that turned the world upside down, which he received through a revelation of Christ Himself.
”For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.“ Gal. 1:11-12 ESV
Receiving wisdom from above is parallel with receiving a revelation of Christ — you can’t have one without the other. We all desperately need a revelation of Christ Himself. May we never stop pressing into Him until we receive it and He causes us to lay down every other thing for an ever-increasing measure of God Himself. Godly wisdom has the character of Christ, so if we want godly wisdom we must begin by seeking the Wise.
“Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth.
This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal).
For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).
And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God’s will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts].” James 3:13-18 AMP
One with wisdom lives by showing good works though humility, which is the proper attribute of true wisdom. Jesus, of course, fully exemplified and embodied wisdom. James immediately contrasts godly wisdom with another kind of wisdom with profound attributes of it’s own. These two kinds of wisdom couldn’t be more opposite. Instead of showing good works through humility, earthly wisdom will display jealousy and contention through pride. James boldly clarifies that this earthly wisdom is not only unspiritual and animalistic, but even demonic.
This immediately causes me to revisit the proverb, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.” It is now adequately clear that we should interpret this to mean, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom from above — godly wisdom!” This may seem incredibly simplistic, but if you continue along this line of thought you will see that it is invaluable to our lives. The wisdom of God would become more clear to us in the midst of many controversies if we would learn to look for the opposing fruit of these two kinds of wisdom.
Two Kinds of Fruit
In the same way that Jesus said that we would know people by their fruit (Mat. 11:15-19, 12:33), we can know earthly wisdom by it’s fruit as well. Using fruit as a metaphor to explain the true reality beyond what may be immediately apparent is a brilliant concept. Not only does this tell how to evaluate a person or situation, but it also promises to reveal truth over time. You see, sometimes people can very effectively hide what is true, whether it concerns their lives or the reality beyond what they say or believe. However, this one test never fails: the test of time.
Fruit takes time to grow, and the promise is that in due time you will know the truth because the fruit will become increasingly apparent. You can’t fake fruit; earthly wisdom can’t produce godly fruit. Sometimes fruit can be polished up to appear better than it really is, and this is probably why God likes to put fruit under pressure! Good fruit under pressure releases the blessings of God and the grace of Jesus to the world around us. Bad fruit under pressure produces a stench that cannot be doctored up.
Check-Check, One-Two, One-Two
Here’s were the rubber meets the road; or were the fruit meets the juicer, if you prefer. People can be very convincing, even hard to oppose, because their words and thoughts are well studied, organized, and sharply presented. But, if you want to evaluate what they say, you can first put their ideas under a little pressure and see what comes out when the fruit is squeezed. You’ve got to play the role of fruit inspector, checking apparent wisdom against the Biblical standard and then seeing it for what it is.
So let’s be extremely clear about this. Earthly wisdom produces bitter jealousy, envy, contention, rivalry, selfish ambition, and pride. Therefore it is in stark defiance to the Truth. This will seem impossible to one who exhibits earthly wisdom, because they think they are promoting truth with their wisdom. But the fruit proves it for what it actually is, and the Bible clearly says that this sort of fruit is in absolute defiance to the truth. Whatever truths they may have, whatever facts they do know correctly, are made completely irrelevant and ineffectual by their earthly wisdom.
The scripture in James goes on to reveal that there are other fruits produced by earthly wisdom. Based on the passage in James and from my experience, I would say that there are three levels of fruit produced by earthly wisdom. The first layer is bitterness, jealousy, envy, contention, rivals, selfish ambition, and pride. The second layer is confusion, unrest, disharmony, and rebellion. And the full result is the plummet into all sorts of other evil.
It’s worth noting that these fruits are produced from within the person promoting this superficial, earthly wisdom. The messenger is intimately integrated with their message. As they release their earthly wisdom, they also release these fruits into the atmosphere around them, carrying it with them where ever they go.
Godly wisdom flows from the heart of a person with a revelation of Christ, producing a harvest of righteousness. Godly wisdom is pure and undefiled. In part, this means “it really is what it is“ — it’s pure and undefiled, undiluted and unpolluted. Godly wisdom loves peace, and is therefore courteous, compassionate, considerate, gentle, and willing to yield to reason. It is whole-hearted, straightforward, impartial, free from doubts, free from wavering, and free from insincerity. It results in good works produced through humility. Those who walk in godly wisdom work for peace in themselves and others by seeking common ground and focusing on harmony between people. They work to dispel fears, agitations, and conflicts in themselves first and in others second.
Truth in the hands of a person with godly wisdom is a powerful thing. It is also in exuberant support of Truth. This means that whatever revelation they have, whatever truths they wield, will be made relevant and effectual by their godly wisdom.
Therefore, get wisdom from above; get godly understanding. Do not forget what godly wisdom really is, and do not turn away from it (Pro. 4:5).
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for eighteen years, and is the proud father of two boys.